TE Antonio Gates (Harry How/Getty)
Tight end Scott Chandler is willing and ready. The Chargers hope they don't have to play the Chandler card often in the upcoming season. But the fact remains with training camp starting next month, the team has yet to see Pro Bowler Antonio Gates on the field.
Antonio Gates is still bouncing back from toe surgery, an injury that severely restricted him in the playoffs last season. There is no guarantee Gates, who suffered a dislocated toe, will be ready to go when the Chargers open the season on Sept. 7 against the visiting Panthers.
But remember that old adage of how someone being down jars open a door for someone else. Scott Chandler, entering his second year, is that someone.
"For me personally, it's a good opportunity to get a lot of reps and to really improve," Chandler said.
But Chandler really got his NFL moments last year in the playoffs. With Gates in a walking boot up until game day, Chandler prepared as if he was playing in the season's biggest games.
"I was with the (first team) all through the week," said Chandler, a fourth-round pick out of Iowa last year who appeared in but one game for the Chargers.
"It was a good learning experience, and hopefully, I can build on that."
Coach Norv Turner said Chandler, while showing progress, has many miles to go.
"He's got a lot to learn," Turner said. "We have a specific set of things we want Scott to do to get better, and I think he's doing them. When we get into training camp, we'll see how far he's progressed."
No matter how much he improves, Chandler realizes he's not Gates. Chandler also wouldn't be surprised to see Gates playing in time for the opener.
"I think Gates is going to be back and in there doing his thing," Chandler said. "But I want to be prepared if my time comes to be in there."
--Training camp at Chargers Park will begin July 20 with the rookies and various veterans reporting for work. The balance of the squad checks in July 24, with the first full-team workout being held July 25.
--TE Scott Chandler is working his tail off in case Pro Bowler Antonio Gates can't get off the injury list in time for the season opener. "Obviously, it's not good for us to have Antonio on the sidelines," Chandler said.
--Coach Norv Turner said rookie Antoine Cason was solid in the offseason coaching sessions. "He's had a good session in terms of our OCS's," Turner said. "He's played a couple of positions. He looks like he's a guy that fits naturally and has a feel for playing in the slot. I think he's going to be a great addition."
--Rookie FB Jacob Hester has been plugged in at various spots. Hester, out of LSU, has seen work at running back and fullback.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's time for us as an organization and a team to take that next step to the playoffs and move forward to the ultimate goal, which is to win a Super Bowl." -- K Nate Kaeding, on what the Chargers hope to accomplish during the 2008 season.